Programming note: Sharks-Canucks Game 1 coverage kicks off tonight at 7 p.m. Comcast SportsNet California with Sharks Pregame Live. Stick around after the final horn for Sharks Postgame Live.
VANCOUVER – The first big question in the Sharks-Canucks Western Conference Quarterfinal series has been answered.
Roberto Luongo will get the start in net for Vancouver tonight in Game 1, as Cory Schneider is still apparently feeling the effects of an undisclosed injury. Luongo played in the Canucks’ final two regular season games with Schneider on the shelf.
On April 27 in Edmonton, he allowed seven goals on 37 shots as Vancouver rested several of its key players. Five of those goals came in a span of less than four minutes late in the third period.
Luongo, who said he found out this morning he was starting, has already put that performance behind him.
“It’s already erased. It’s long gone. This is the playoffs, everybody starts off at zeros, and away we go,” he said.
Regarding the Sharks, Luongo said: “They’re a tough opponent. They’ve got some skilled forwards and some good playmakers out there. We’ve got to be sharp, and make sure we don’t give those guys time and space.”
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault doesn’t expect Schneider’s absence to affect his team.
“I don’t think for our group having Roberto in goal is a concern,” he said. “He’s a pretty good goalie. He’s been through a lot of battles, he’s played some real solid hockey for us, and tonight he’s playing and I’m sure he’s looking forward to the opportunity.”
In 20 games this season, Luongo was 9-6-3 with a 2.56 goals-against average and .907 save percentage. Rookie Joe Cannata, a 23-year-old 2009 draft pick who has never played an NHL game, will back up Luongo.
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The Canucks held an optional skate on Wednesday morning, and Ryan Kesler was a notable absence. Where was he?
“We’ve got him locked up in the back, and we’re feeding him raw meat. The beast will be ready tonight,” Vigneault joked.